Enjoy our author interview with Carrie Lukas, co-author of Lean Together: An Agenda for Smarter Government, Stronger Communities, and More Opportunity for Women. This Sunday, join us at our Membership Book Brunch with author Julie Gunlock, who contributed to Lean Together.
What initially prompted you to research and write Lean Together?
At the Independent Women’s Forum, we’ve long focused on making the case for limited government and greater individual freedom. But the reality of the political and policy debates of recent years means that we’ve spent much of our time fighting against proposals that we believe move our country in the wrong direction. We’ve been beating back criticism and claims that those who share our views are party to a “War on Women.” This time, we all wanted to have a different focus: to offer a positive picture of the society that we’d like to live in and the kinds of policy changes that could take us there. That was the motivation behind writing this book.
What kind of reception have you received since publishing Lean Together? Have you received push-back from liberal or feminist groups? How have conservatives responded?
We’ve really had a very positive response: I think that many people, regardless of their ideology, want to hear more from women about the policy issues that matter to them. Most seem to appreciate our reasonable tone, attempts to carefully define the problems we face and to offer a positive vision for the future.
Are there any changes you wish you could make to your book now? Any other topics you would have liked to address?
I always wish we could delve deeper into important policy issues. In particular, there are so many ways that regulations and our litigation culture are strangling American creative and ingenuity… and just making it a less fun and free place to live. I wish we could have lingered on that more, but overall I think we covered many of the most important topics that face our country today. I’m really proud of how this turned out.
What value do you think groups like NeW add to the public discourse?
It is simply essential that young women are encouraged to consider a wide range of viewpoints on matters of public policy and politics. Sadly, without NeW, too many women would be hearing exclusively from the overwhelmingly liberal and far left feminists who dominate academia and see government as the solution to every problem. NeW is critical in bringing new ideas and perspectives to young women, but also by providing much needed support for women with different viewpoints so that they can speak out themselves and play an active role on campus.
What do you think is the most misunderstood policy that you write about in the book?
I think the most misunderstood concept that really affects discussions about all of the policy areas covered in the book is that our public policy options are either more government or a more purely individualistic society. Those are not the real choices we face. Yes, we at IWF believe in individual rights and responsibilities, but the real tension is between government and civil society, which consists not only of individuals, but of families, communities, friends and associations. Sadly, what we’ve seen in the last 50 years is how government crowds out these private relationships and interactions, discouraging neighbors from coming together to help each other, discouraging community-based groups from trying to solve the problems they see around them, and inviting people to shrug off the needs of their friends and even family members, believe that it’s just government’s job to help, not theirs. The policies in these book do not seek to create a “go-it-alone” society, as some on the left have charged, but to roll back government’s intrusion so that we have a healthier society and more space so that people can rebuild our country’s important foundation.
What message would you like young women who are in college or who have recently graduated to take from your book?
They shouldn’t accept American society as it is or assume that we are doomed to face decline, a permanently sluggish economy, an increasingly bureaucratic health care system, a subpar education system, and depressing culture. Americans can and should expect better. And the good news is that, for all of the talk about how divided we are as a nation, overwhelmingly Americans share the desire for a healthy, thriving society with opportunity for all. I hope that they’ll find insight into why more government is unlikely to solve the problems that we have today and that rather we should be focused on reforming government, so that it does the jobs it’s supposed to do well. We need a smart, efficient government to provide the foundation so that the American people can use their time and talents, and then to give them the freedom to do so.